News - 03 March 2014

Investment boost for Pharma firm

Contract research organisation, XenoGesis Ltd is investing £250,000 to develop a pioneering range of biological testing procedures (assays), which could help to speed up the rate of drug discovery in the UK.

The company’s investment, which will significantly extend its customer base, is supported by a grant of £62,500 from the Nottingham Technology Grant Fund (N’Tech). N’Tech grants are geared towards the growing life science, digital content and clean technologies sectors, and the fund is run by Nottingham City Council. The programme is focussed on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the greater Nottingham area.

This is the latest in a series of significant investments for businesses in Nottingham’s growing life sciences sector. 

The city boasts one of the UK’s largest bioscience incubators, BioCity Nottingham, and has a longstanding heritage for drug development and discovery with the presence of companies such as Boots and the Queen’s Medical Centre – one of the UK’s biggest teaching hospitals and a hub for biomedical research. Nottingham is also one of the ‘big five’ centres for life sciences in the UK, alongside Oxford, Cambridge, London and Manchester.

Based at BioCity, XenoGesis specialises in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) – the study of what happens to drugs after they have been administered to the body. The business was set-up by Dr Richard Weaver, a former Principal Scientist at AstraZeneca (formerly based in Loughborough).  Just four months into trading this young growing company exceeded its initial sales targets by more than 300% and in the past 18 months, its workforce has increased by 200%.

Working with a number of global pharmaceutical and biotech businesses, XenoGesis offers a range of laboratory based services. Specifically it can identify potential ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in drug discovery campaigns,  a service which is rarely available, but helps to predict drug failure and prevent progression to more expensive tests, saving companies both time and money.

Established in 2011, XenoGesis currently employs seven full-time members of staff, including Dr Manfred Ismair (CSO) who will lead on the new project, and is set to take on an Associate Research Scientist in April. 

Dr Weaver, who has over 16 years’ experience in drug discovery, commented: “The funding from N’Tech will allow us to invest in new equipment and to create up to four senior laboratory jobs in the next two years. We look forward to expanding our commercial services and also continuing to help our clients to bring new medicines to the market.”

Toby Reid, Director at BioCity, added: “Richard and his team have an enviable track record in the DMPK and drug discovery field and highlight Nottingham’s strength in the life science sector. Innovative companies like XenoGesis should look to BioCity to see how they can benefit from support and funding through schemes such as the N’Tech fund.”

Two other life science businesses to recently benefit from N’Tech support include university spin-out company Platelet Solutions Ltd and Upperton Ltd who are both investing in new technologies over the coming months. The former is currently developing a test kit which could lead to lives being saved worldwide among patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

N’Tech is a core element of the Nottingham Growth Plan a blueprint for the city’s future business growth and one of the most ambitious strategies of the UK’s Core Cities. Measures introduced as part of the plan have played a key role in encouraging new business formation through various finance and support packages. 

N’Tech grants are funded solely through the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).  Nottingham City Council secured RGF from the Government for grants to help fast track development of businesses based in the city. The funding can provide grants of £20,000 to £1 million per successful company to support growth and expansion.

The N’Tech fund has so far had 34 successful applications across the digital content, life sciences and clean technology sectors and awarded grants to the value £4 million with 737 jobs created and safeguarded.  

Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Jobs and Growth at the City Council, said: “Nottingham City Council is delighted to be able to support XenoGesis. This company’s work has the potential to lead to major research breakthroughs. Nottingham has a very strong life sciences offer and XenoGesis are a perfect example of the kind of Nottingham company that will really help the city’s economy grow in the right way.”

Source: Growing Nottingham

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